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Every project needs an entrepreneur

Leadership can define a project's mission, drive its results, and assure its future viability. As time goes by I think we'll see, more and more often, that the kind of leadership we're talking about is entrepreneurial leadership.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

The criticisms of OpenOffice governance lain by Michael Meeks bring up a follow-up question, namely, how should open source projects be governed?

Boards and committees are fine. Structure is a necessity. Transparency is obvious.

The real question is, should there be a name on the door, someone who takes the place of the CEO or (better still) the entrepreneur at a proprietary company?

Making this question more urgent is a New York Times feature on Ubuntu's entrepreneur, Mark Shuttleworth (above).

The piece makes clear that Shuttleworth's passion is not driven by the bottom line. He made a ton on Thawte and Canonical is, in dollar terms, still a very small company.

Red Hat makes almost as much in two weeks as Canonical brings in each year. Yet Ubuntu, under Shuttleworth's direction, has become the lead horse on desktop Linux, an important global force. My guess is Ubuntu is better known than Red Hat.

With apologies to Jim Zemlin, Linus Torvalds is and always will be the name you think of when you think of Linux. This offers another model for open source leadership, the technical track.

Regardless of whether you are at heart a coder, a marketer, or a strategist, I think there should be a you at every major open source project. A name on the door. Someone we identify with. The first one we go to with questions. Someone with answers.

Stormy Peters  has taken on this role at GNOME. John Lilly is the man at Mozilla. Skip McGaughey is the man at Open Health Tools, as he was with Eclipse.

While some still think open source was created in reaction to business values, in fact it is highly complementary to them. As projects grow they take on more and more of the colorations of a business.

Most open source projects are now sponsored by specific businesses. Each commercial arm, whether they developed the project or are spin-offs, has an entrepreneur in charge.

Leadership can define a project's mission, drive its results, and assure its future viability. As time goes by I think we'll see, more and more often, that the kind of leadership we're talking about is entrepreneurial leadership.

In 2009 I think it would be great if more open source projects acknowledged this, and gave us leadership with more entrepreneurial drive.

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